Best Email Marketing Campaigns of 2015: Black Friday Edition

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…for email marketing. With Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday barely behind us, the holiday shopping season has officially kicked off. When we weren’t cashing in on our favorite deals this past weekend, we were keeping track of some of the greatest email marketing campaigns that filled up our inboxes.

Take a look at the brands that we thought were winners this week, and the techniques they used to help their campaigns stand out amongst the busiest time of the year for both our inbox, and our wallet.

1. Vibrant Imagery: American Eagle

Rather than displaying all of their products and prices in the body of their emails, American Eagle went purely for aesthetics. Their stunning imagery illustrates what the holiday season is all about; Christmas lights, log cabins, food, and friends. Every email throughout the weekend started with a unique, yet cohesive image followed by more specific products and pricing information as a reader continued to scroll down the message. Together they told the story of the perfect holiday weekend, and through the simple design, they subtly let their readers know what they could save by shopping now.

Congested emails and busy layouts can be overwhelming and turn customers away rather than capturing their interest. If you can find a balance between detailed content, and striking imagery, it is likely your emails will be the ones that stand out amongst the other noise of the holiday shopper’s inbox. There is a reason they say “less is more,” and American Eagle’s numerous email campaigns throughout Thanksgiving weekend exemplify that mantra.


2. Storyline: Uber

Although the importance of storytelling has never been understated, now more than ever brands are creating campaigns with a narrative. On November 30, Uber began its “5 Days of Giving.” Partnering with luxury brands like L’Occitane and Diane von Furstenberg, drivers will deliver free gifts to riders in New York City who enter the code ‘TAPGETGIVE’ through the Uber app, with Uber announcing every day which brand’s gifts will be available. They are also launching Uber (RED) in conjunction with World AIDS Day on December 1st where riders can select this option and donate $5 on top of their fare to help fight AIDS around the world.

Since Uber isn’t necessarily trying to sell a product, they want readers to engage with their brand and use their app throughout the coming holidays. This campaign is telling a story to readers that will keep them coming back every day to see what prizes they can win, while also presenting them with the chance to give back. The narrative balances the theme of the gifting season by letting users have a chance to win luxury items, without losing sight on what the holidays are really about; giving back. It is a great email campaign to keep their users engaged throughout the rest of the week, and the end of the year.

3. Subject Line

The very first thing your audience will see is your subject line, and it is what determines whether or not someone even takes the time to open your email or hit the “delete” button. While some companies get right to the point and put their deals and discounts prominently in there, hoping to bring in shoppers, others have gotten a little more creative with this element of the email campaign.

Creative: Target

Target hit the bullseye quite literally this weekend. They included a little Target icon in the subject line of their email for a subtle, yet significant way to get their messages to stand out in each recipient’s inbox. Throughout the year, we have seen similar trends with companies including small illustrations like stars and snowflakes in their headings in order to draw in customers. Especially during this major shopping weekend, this extra touch can certainly help those emails make an impression.

Target’s use of the little bullseye not only captures the reader’s attention, but it helps the potential customer easily find that email again when digging back through their messages. It is very similar to Target’s own logo, making it easy for people to associate with the company. Readers will remember that, and know what to look for in their inbox when it comes time to make a purchase. Cute and creative, nice job Target!

Compelling: Madewell

Returning to work after a holiday weekend is always a challenge. However, when that first Monday back happens to be Cyber Monday, sitting at your desk in front of a computer all day might not be so bad. Madewell helps alleviate any guilt you have over online shopping on-the-clock with their subject line assuring you that “Your boss is shopping today too.” It’s funny, it’s compelling, and it’s true.

The short message quickly captures the attention of the reader and prompts them to not only open the email, but make their way to the website to start shopping. A subject line as simple as this can strongly stand out amongst the other deals that clog up an inbox throughout Thanksgiving weekend.

4. Gif: Brooks Brothers

Thanks to Internet powerhouses like Buzzfeed, GIFs are the language of choice for any millennial wanting to express their ‘feels’. Of late, marketers are capitalizing on the increasingly popular storytelling tool, as the file format proves to be an amazing tool in capturing the recipient’s attention in ways static images cannot.

Animated GIFs help provide valuable content to readers, while allowing companies to stand out from the competition – a winning combination that entices potential customers to open and read your email, and engage with your business. However, GIFs have to do more than just look pretty – they have to convert customers.

Brooks Brothers, a company that dates back almost two centuries, has increasingly been maximizing their modern marketing efforts to attract a younger audience, and it’s working. Brooks Brother’s combination of Cyber Monday-esque design and strong messaging bolsters it as our top email campaign with a GIF. It’s simple, yet entertaining, and presents the reader with all of the information they need to start shopping.

Several marketing studies have shown that using a GIF, in comparison to using static images, can increase the CTR and conversion rates of an email campaign. Brooks Brothers drew attention to the most important element of their email, the CTA, by having it light up at the very end of the animation. A GIF is a great way to increase both email engagement and revenue to the business. Utilizing this during the weekend of Black Friday definitely helped their message stand out.


5. Unique CTA: Alessandro International

A call to action – it tells visitors what to do, where they should click, and what to buy.

Although I’m sure we don’t need to describe the importance of including a call-to-action (CTA), creating an effective CTA might be harder than you think, especially during the madness of Black Friday. Strong messaging, evoking emotion, and sustaining the focus of the reader are key elements of a high-performing CTA, so we have to admit – we were a little disappointed to see ‘Shop Now’ in almost every email this year.

Marketers are constantly looking for new ways to convert readers, and with the volume an inbox sees during the holidays, a creative CTA is now vital. A great example of this was Allessandro International’s Cyber Monday campaign, prompting readers in a refreshingly unique way with their “I WANT IT” CTA.

“I WANT IT”. Not only is it short and clear, but it’s simply different from everything else we typically see. The use of urgent language encourages immediate action and proves extremely effective in prompting readers to click through. The copy also persuades customers to shop for themselves, not just the people on their list. It works in conjunction with their ‘treat yourself to…’ attitude, and let’s be honest, it’s ok to admit that Cyber Monday shopping is mostly for yourself.


With the volume of emails that fill an inbox during the holidays, its easy to lose sight of what strategies to employ to your own campaigns. However, creativity can go a long way this time of year, and there are always new techniques to try out in order to make the most of your email marketing efforts.